Premium midsize SUV; Built in Japan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $12,500 – $25,800*


2004 Lexus RX


2004 Lexus RX


2004 Lexus RX


2004 Lexus RX

Pros:
  • Fuel economy (RX 400h)
  • Interior materials
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Road noise
Cons:
  • Climate controls w/ navigation system
  • Rear visibility

The RX 300 spawned many imitators, some of which remain better dollar value in absolute terms. But like the original, the RX 330 and RX 400h quickly earned our Best Buy endorsement for their unexcelled blend of comfort, refinement, luxury, and workmanship. That naturally holds for used examples, which also benefit from Lexus’ strong reputation for reliability, customer satisfaction, and kid-gloves service. Warranties are another asset, and portions should still be in force on these newer vehicles. Your best bet might be an “off lease” RX remarketed through Lexus dealers’ certified pre-owned program. You may pay more than with a private sale, but you get a thoroughly inspected and serviced vehicle with a separate limited warranty-arguably the next best thing to buying new.

Overview

Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand pioneered the “crossover” SUV with the 1999 RX 300. For 2004, the 4-door wagon was redesigned to become the RX 330 with more power, size and features. A gasoline/electric hybrid version, the RX 400h, was added as an early-2006 model.

Like the original RX, the new generation was loosely based on the Lexus ES/Toyota Camry sedan platform, but retained distinct styling, which took on a sportier air with the redesign. At the same time, overall length grew 5.9 inches on a 4-inch longer wheelbase. That put the RX closer in size to Toyota’s Highlander, introduced for 2001 as a lower-priced crossover with more-traditional wagon styling. But where Highlander later offered optional 3-row seating, the RX did not, remaining a 5-passenger model.

The RX 330 name reflected a larger, V6 engine: a 3.3-liter unit with 230 hp, up 10 from the RX 300. The only transmission was a 5-speed automatic, replacing a 4-speed. As before, buyers could choose front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The latter again lacked low-range gearing and was not intended for severe off-road use. The RX 400h, Lexus’ first gasoline/electric vehicle, delivered 268 hp with a V6 augmented by three battery-driven electric motors that provided de facto AWD via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Like Toyota’s hybrid Prius compact car, the 400h could run on either or both of its power sources according to driving demands, with the CVT providing a near-infinite number of drive ratios. No plug-in charging was required, also like the Prius.

Befitting a Lexus, all RX models came with many standard features. Traction/antiskid control, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes and front side airbags were joined by curtain side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. Also new were a tire-pressure monitor, 17-inch wheels to replace 16s, and a 40/20/40 split rear seat with slide and recline adjustments. The 400h included several features available for 330s. Among them were 18-inch wheels, steering-linked xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, and a voice-control navigation system with rearview TV camera. Heated front seats and DVD entertainment were available for all models. Exclusive RX 330 options included a multipanel sunroof, a self-leveling air suspension with driver-selectable height settings, and adaptive cruise control designed to maintain a set following distance.

Yearly Updates

2005 RX
A power liftgate moved from optional to standard status, and the included power front-passenger seat went from 4-way to 8-way adjustment. The available navigation system added a wireless cell phone connection, plus new graphics for its dashboard screen and a more-detailed database.
2006 RX
These models were virtual carryovers as the hybrid 400h took center stage.
2007 RX
Conventional-powertrain versions of this SUV got more power for 2007. The RX 350 had a 270-hp V6 and replaced the RX 330, which had a 223-hp V6.
2008 RX
The 2008 Lexus RX was largely unchanged.
2009 RX
The RX 350 again saw few changes.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

The 2004-2006 RX 330s came only with a 3.3-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission. Due to a change in rating method, horsepower on 2006 models was restated from 230 to 223 and torque from 242 to 238 pound-feet, though no engine changes were made. The 2006 hybrid RX 400h offered a peak 268 hp and 212 pound-feet from a 3.3 V6 assisted by battery-powered electric motors. Its only transmission was a continuously variable automatic (CVT). For 2007, the RX 350 has a 270-hp V6 and replaces the RX 330, which had a 223-hp V6.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/201
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 242
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

18/24

14.2

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/201
Engine HP 268
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 212
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
CVT automatic

30/26

22.7

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/211
Engine HP 270
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 251
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

19/24

Road Test

Regular or hybrid, the RX combines pleasant, car-like manners with all the quiet comfort and luxury appointments expected of a Lexus. Performance is good either way. A test RX 330 with front-wheel drive clocked 0-60 mph in a class-competitive 8.9 sec; the heavier AWD version is little slower. Both benefit from a smooth, responsive 5-speed automatic transmission. The available air suspension includes a manual shift gate that’s useful at midrange passing speeds and for climbing steep grades. A test RX 400h clocked 7.3 sec 0-60 mph and showed plenty of passing muscle once the CVT found the “right” ratio. The hybrid’s fuel economy is no less impressive. We averaged 22.7 mpg despite mostly city driving and gas-eating acceleration tests. But similar use netted a disappointing 14.2 mpg for a test 2WD 330, and an AWD version managed just 20.6 with mostly highway miles. Still, that’s better mpg than most truck-based midsize SUVs deliver, though any RX requires premium fuel.

Ride comfort is a plus. The 400h suspension is slightly stiffer than the 330’s, but all models are generally absorbent and controlled-almost like premium cars. Little rough-surface thump occurs with either the 17- or 18-inch tires, but the air suspension makes little difference to ride or handling. Speaking of which, the RX is easy to drive. It’s not for hustling along twisty roads, but it corners with only moderate body lean and sure grip. The standard traction/antiskid control adds peace of mind in bad weather. Strong braking performance also reassures, though some test models had slightly mushy pedal action. Quietness is a major asset, with low engine, wind and tire noise at most any speed and surface. Here, too, the RX is more luxury car than SUV.

The interior further reinforces that impression with first-rate materials and workmanship, as expected of Lexus, plus room for five real grownups. The middle person in back suffers a harder, higher cushion and little leg space, especially if the sliding bench seat is moved forward, but other occupants enjoy stretch-out comfort. Step-in is a bit steep but livable. One benefit of the 330’s optional air suspension is an “access” mode that lowers ride height 1.2 inches from normal to ease entry/exit-when stopped, of course.

Drivers sit high in the saddle and have plenty of adjustments, but some may have trouble finding an agreeable seat/steering-wheel relationship, and vision astern is hampered by bulky rear roof pillars and a fairly narrow liftgate window. Another demerit is the profusion of buttons and switches for the many comfort and convenience features. Most aren’t tough to find or figure out, but they do take study. That’s especially true on models with the navigation system. It not only absorbs some climate and audio functions, its touch screen easily shows fingerprints and washes out in some light conditions. In the hybrid, the screen can call up “energy monitor” and fuel-consumption displays that are useful, but can be distracting. The 400h also has an unhelpful “power meter” instead of a tachometer.

As for utility, the RX offers middling load space for the class and can’t carry tall or bulky cargo because of the stylishly sloped roofline and limited floor-to-ceiling height. At least the rear-seat sections fold in one easy motion with headrests in place, though they don’t lay flat. The power tailgate found on most examples operates from switches on the gate, dashboard or remote keyfob and includes child-friendly “pinch protection” sensors. A 115-volt 2-prong outlet behind the rear seat is another thoughtful touch, as is the nifty sliding front console that contributes to bountiful small-items storage.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 Lexus RX 330 AWD

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 7
70%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
70%
Cargo Room - 7
70%

Other

Value - 10
100%

Total: 69

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.9 186.2 72.6 66.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
84.7 19.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 38.6 42.5 36.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 LExus RX 330 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The A/C performance may gradually get worse and airflow from the vents may decrease after driving 1.5 hours because the evaporator ices up. A wiring harness adapter will fix the problem. (2004)
Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioning warning light my blink due to failure of the A/C amplifier. (2007)
Cold-starting problems
Description: The engine may not start and numerous warning lights may come on when the car is started in cold (15 degree F or lower) temperatures unless a new ignition relay and wiring harness was installed. (2007-09)
Doors
Description: The rear power door may make popping or scratching noises requiring replacement of the power door unit. (2004-07)
Engine stalling
Description: The engine may not start in below-freezing (32F) temperatures, requiring a revised fuel pump sub-tank assembly.
Oil leak
Description: Oil leak at the timing cover on some early production vehicles. (2007)
Transmission leak
Description: Transmission fluid may leak from the oil seal on the right side of the transfer case for which an improved oil seal is available. (2004-06)
Trunk latch
Description: The automatic rear hatch may begin opening then reverse and close due to weak gas support struts. (2005-06)
Windows
Description: If the automatic up function for the window quits, the switch must be replaced with a revised one. (2004)
None
Description: Engine feels like it is surging (speeding up and slowing down) at cruising speed requiring engine control module reprogramming. (2006-07)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may come on due to a vacuum leak allowing air past the pivot for the intake air control valve. (2004)

Recall History

2004 RX330
Description: An improperly designed break light switch can become inoperable. Dealers will replace the broken light switch.
2004-2006 RX
Description: If replacement brake fluid is used that does not contain certain polymers, or that contains only small amounts, a part of the rubber seal located at the rear of the brake master cylinder may become dry and a small amount of brake fluid could slowly leak from the seal into the brake booster. A leak of brake fluid could lead to a change in brake pedal feel and overtime, degradation in braking performance, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the seal with a newly designed one. This service will be performed free of charge.
2004-2007 RX330, RX350, and RX400H
Description: If the forward retention clip used to secure the floor carpet cover, which is located in front of the center console, is not installed properly the cover may lean toward the accelerator pedal and interfere with the accelerator pedal arm. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may temporarily become stuck in a partially depressed position rather than return to the idle position. A stuck accelerator pedal may result in unintended and sustained vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash. Dealers will replace the floor carpet cover with a newly designed one free or charge.
2006 RX 400h
Description: Some vehicles may have retaining clips that allow the front portion of the center console to come loose on the driver’s side, causing possible interference with the accelerator pedal. Dealers will replace the retaining clips free of charge.
2006 RX330/400h with 1MZ-FE or 3MZ-FE engine
Description: Inadequate adhesive between outer and inner ring in the crankshaft pulley could lead to misalignment, causing noise, illumination of the battery discharge indicator light, and/or loss of power steering.
2006-2007 Lexus RX400H
Description: A module inside the inverter module may contain inadequately soldered transistors that during high-load driving, may be damaged by heat caused by the large current. If this occurs, various warning lamps, including the malfunction indicator lamp, slip indicator light, brake system warning light, and master warning light, will be illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle may enter a fail-safe/limp-home mode that limits the drivability of the vehicle. It is possible that the hybrid system will shut down while the vehicle is being driven, causing the vehicle to stall unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a crash. Toyota dealers will inspect the hybrid inverter production number to determine whether the inverter contains suspect transistors and replace the module free of charge.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.